Wintersun - The Forest Seasons,
Founded back in 2004 by front man Jari Mäenpää, Finnish epic metallers Wintersun released their highly-acclaimed debut album the same year. The band took the listener to a Nordic land filled with both, soaring and frosty guitar lines and relentless drums played by Kai Hahto. Eight years later, their second ‘Time I’ was also greeted with high praise and they were soon touring with Korpiklaani, Eluveitie, and Fleshgod Apocalypse amongst others. It hasn’t taken them quite so long to come back with the third album, only five years this time, and here they invite the listener to embark on a musical journey through a mystical forest with just four songs, but a total running time of 54 minutes.
The first track of this new sonic adventure, “Awaken From The Dark Slumber (Spring)”, begins with a mysterious, dreamy melody, accompanied by subdued forest animal sounds. With driving guitars and pounding drums, the song snakes through an unstoppable 15-minute course. Massive choirs, beautiful and furious Asian-influenced guitar and orchestral sounds come together in this monumental opening track and let the listener experience the awakening of the forest. Second up is “The Forest That Weeps (Summer)”, which also starts with a calm and gloomy acoustic intro until you get woken up by haunting low guitars, continuing the previous lead melody. Even more tiny sonic details rise up all around and lead through the harsh verses to the track's majestic clean vocal-choruses, followed by a heavily grooving and increasing instrumental interlude. In the end, after reaching its pinnacle in the form of the final chorus including an even more massive choir ('The Forest That Weeps (Summer)' abruptly returns to its original theme and fades away slowly...
Silence is reigning... A foreboding wind is drawing near... “Eternal Darkness (Autumn)”, the third track, catches you by surprise and keeps what it's title promises with its black metallic elements- devastating blast beats and harsh vocals await! The threatening orchestral sounds evoke the depressive and sad atmosphere that captures the listener and then leaves you behind with a soundscape filled with melancholic melodies until the song comes to a relentless and ominous end, recapturing its brutal beginning. Traditional folkish tunes lead into the most emotional, saddest and concluding part of the album, “Loneliness (Winter)”.
Complex, magical, full of beauty and hidden depths, this is a journey that in many ways is epic yet at others passes by incredibly quickly. This is a superb piece of work, one that is going to make many people sit up and take notice. Indeed, when compared to recent albums by both Korpiklaani and Eluveitie, both bands who are more well-known than Wintersun, I know which one I would much rather listen to. This is epic, nothing less.